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August 6, 2020

Appleton Campbell’s new HQ represents long journey

One of the biggest things, I think, is attitude. It’s like getting a new car. Everybody’s a couple of clicks happier.
— Scott Wayland, company vice president and co-owner
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Lots of adjectives apply to Appleton Campbell’s new building at 285 Alwington Blvd. next to Warrenton’s Home Depot.

But, “efficient” pops up repeatedly as the HVAC/plumbing/electrical service company’s owners give a tour of the 18,000-square-foot structure, which opened in May.

Company President Mike Appleton and Vice President Scott Wayland for more than five years had explored options to accommodate their fast-growing business.

Appleton Campbell outgrew the old 1929 “icehouse” on Franklin Street, its headquarters since the early 1980s. About six years ago, the company also began leasing the former Leach Rental building on Church Street.

But, with more than 80 employees and 62 trucks, it grew increasingly difficult.

Depending on the supplies and tools they needed, technicians often had to visit both old buildings before heading to their jobs for the day, Mr. Wayland noted.

“I hadn’t had an office in five years,” said Mr. Appleton, 60, who began working as a plumber with his grandfather 44 years ago, when the company started.

Five people worked in his former office and, “Scott’s office became the conference room,” Mr. Appleton said.

To conduct regular companywide meetings, they rented the Warrenton Volunteer Fire Co. station basement.

Mr. Appleton and Mr. Wayland, 52, who became a 20-percent owner of the business in 1997, started searching for a site on which to build a new structure.

“We looked at New Baltimore, but the traffic makes it difficult,” Mr. Appleton said.

“That stoplight” at Alwington and James Madison Highway, along with VDOT’s plan for the interchange at Warrenton’s southern tip, convinced them to buy the new building’s 4.3-acre site for $400,000 in May 2016.

They hired The Plains architect Stephen E. Wagner to design the building, which has a 15,000-square-foot main floor and a 3,000-square-foot second story. Vint Hill-based Theobold & Botto Construction finished the structure in May after 13 months of work, including extensive site preparation.

Representing a $3.5-million investment, with financing from Atlantic Union Bank, the building has streamlined the daily routine, as technicians and the office staff work with customers from Northern Virginia to Fredericksburg.

The customer service, human resources and business departments have much more space, including a training room. A large warehouse area — with a new forklift — allows the company to stock thousands of parts, packed in plastic bins by the job each morning for technicians to pick up at a series of four bays on the south side of the building.

Previously, they had to use brute force to load furnaces and compressors onto their trucks.

And, the company had little storage space.

The new building has allowed Appleton Campbell to stockpile Carrier equipment — in short supply nationally because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on manufacturing, especially smaller companies that make components for HVAC systems.

Thanks to its new warehouse space, the company also has realized big savings with bulk purchases of carpet protectors and other disposable items technicians use to keep clients’ spaces clean.

Appleton Campbell has continued to evolve, pivoting from a focus on new construction before the Great Recession of 2008 to primarily a service business. HVAC work accounts for about 60 percent of the company’s business, with plumbing at 30 percent and electrical service at 10.

Technicians carry tablets that allow them to easily communicate with the office and to take credit card payments in the field. In recent years, the business has “grown our own” technicians, Mr. Appleton said. It routinely sends employees, many of whom start as parts runners, to intense training Ultimate Technical Academy in Arkansas.

Company revenue has increased 10 percent year-over-year, despite a slight decrease in the number of employees. The owners believe their new building has helped them improve efficiency.

“One of the biggest things, I think, is attitude,” Mr. Wayland said. “It’s like getting a new car. Everybody’s a couple of clicks happier.”

Appleton Campbell remains a family business. Thirty-year-old Michael Appleton serves as the general manager of his father’s company. Mr. Wayland oversees the service operation, and the senior Appleton handles the business side, working alongside his wife Heather, who manages marketing.

And, they each again have their own offices, although Mr. Appleton’s “desk” consists of two folding plastic tables.

He comes by frugality honestly. His grandfather Jim questioned the need to hire a helper in the company’s early days. Mike’s dad James, who worked full-time for the phone company, pitched in to keep the company’s books.

What would he think of the new building?

“He would eat it up,” Mr. Appleton said. “I wish my dad had lived to see it.”

Contact “Lou” Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-270-1845.

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Mazy · August 6, 2020 at 5:53 pm
You can make a lot of money charging what they do. It doesn’t make it something to celebrate in the news. This company has ripped me off for the last time. Caveat emptor!
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